American car buyers rank Toyota and Ford as top brands in a recent Consumer Reports study that in some cases turns conventional wisdom on its head.

The study results are released as the North American International Auto Show gears up and the national media turns its attention to buying habits.

The telephone survey randomly asked 900 adults to rank brands sold in the U.S. market on six criteria: design/style, performance, quality, safety, technology/innovation and value.

Toyota easily took the top spot, ranking first in four of the six categories, followed by Ford (top in design/style), Honda, Volvo (top in safety) and Chevrolet.

“Despite taking recent (sales) hits, Ford, and even Chevrolet, are brands still thought of highly by consumers,” Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor of ConsumerReports.org says. “But our survey shows Toyota (Motor Corp.’s) brand appeal attracts car buyers, and it retains current owners.”

More telling for the success of a brand is the repeat buyer, and Toyota again leads with 78%.

Overall, when evaluating a car purchase, seven out of 10 consumers named safety and quality as their biggest concerns, putting technology and innovation last.

The survey also reveals about one-quarter of Americans are considering buying a new Toyota. Honda is next (17%), followed by Chevrolet (15%) and Ford (13%).

Surprisingly, only 5% of respondents gave BMW’s German performance brand a high grade overall.

“The poor showing for some deserving brands suggests that consumers would be well served by researching the intended vehicle segment more,” Rob Gentile, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Price Service, says.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted the survey from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.3%.

scanderson@wardsauto.com